The FY2017 budget season is upon us and there are many competing priorities for what will surely be a challenging budget process. Included among senior priorities is the Massachusetts Councils on Aging (COA) seeking an increase of $1 per elder in their Formula Grants, which fund programming staff for important work done at Senior Centers across the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget released at the end of January showed a shortfall by $850,000. After some strong advocacy, the COAs did receive an increase last year and I will work with you and my colleagues to make sure that we do not lose the momentum we have gained.
Governor Baker and I agree on the importance of the Elder Nutrition program (Meals on Wheels), and he has slightly increased that line item. I will be advocating that the House budget meet the increasing demand for this critical program that provides not only good meals, but also well-being checks on vulnerable seniors.
A core group of us in the Legislature agree with Mass Home Care’s budget priorities as they focus on the theme of “Catching Up with Our Demographics.” A key focal point is to increase operations and personnel supports to attract and retain workers at the Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs, locally, Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services). Did you know that 20 percent of the ASAP workforce turns over each year because salaries are not competitive? That high level of turnover within the profession has a huge impact on the quality of service to seniors. With the increase in the minimum wage, we must continue to evaluate every industry and seek to raise wages commensurate with education, experience, and job requirements.
I am also dedicated to helping those elders who narrowly miss the income eligibility for home care services. Raising the home care income eligibility to 300% of the federal poverty level will help reach those individuals who need assistance and are unable to afford private in home care. This will help keep more elders in their home, so that they can age with as much dignity and independence as possible.
Finally, we must continue to help the most vulnerable elders who suffer abuse and neglect. There are 74 new reports of elder abuse and neglect every day. It is imperative that we fully fund the Elder Protective Services Program so that those reports can be fully investigated and those who suffer the abuse and neglect can get the services they need to remain safe.
These are just a couple of the budget priorities I will be working on. I hope you will let me know your priorities as we go through the budget process over the next few months. I ask that seniors advocate for the things you feel are important. Please continue to be in touch with my office or get involved in statewide advocacy.
State Rep Tricia Farley-Bouvier represents the 3rd Berkshire district